As insurance professionals, it’s our duty to think like we own the company, and explore and validate every potentially innovative idea. We are responsible for challenging ideas and decisions that we don’t quite understand or believe in, and with great discipline, we must identify the assumptions and authenticate them. We also need to correlate the idea with the problem we’re solving. In a lot of cases, taking a look at the problem you’re solving will give you a turnabout view of the idea.

I’ve learned in my career, the more experienced you become and the higher the level of expertise you develop, the more assumptions you make and the less time you take to challenge your own beliefs. I’ve seen this in myself and others, and to not become more vigilant about identifying and challenging these assumptions, it would be a disservice to yourself and your employer. Challenge your own thoughts and the thoughts of others. Don’t accept what’s given as face value. There’s so much to discover in pondering a thought.

These very principles were exemplified in a presentation given by Beth Maerz, VP of Customer Experience and Innovation at Travelers, and Lisa Woodley, VP of Customer Experience at NTT Data Services, at Digital Insurance’s Dig | In conference earlier this year. Woodley started the presentation by pointing out that 61% of customers demand that their banks and insurers improve the digital customer experience (CX). Rather than taking that broad result and using it to define solutions, she questioned it asking “61% of who?” After taking a deeper look, her company uncovered some pretty compelling insight.

Only 18% of Settlers, an older demographic group, think their insurer’s digital CX needs to improve and zero percent (that’s right, no one!) would leave their insurance company for a better digital CX. So-called “Explorers,” on the other hand -- young, tech-savvy early adopters said they would leave their insurer for a better digital CX at an 86% clip.

Imagine the marketing failure that would occur by not taking a deeper dive. Imagine sending an email marketing campaign that reaches a broad customer base, including Settlers, and touting the innovation of the new experience your company just delivered. Just as complex as the innovation we’re creating are the audience segmentation and tailored integrated communications that need to be planned strategically and tactfully to say the right things to the right people to get the right actions. It starts by challenging the information that’s given and putting forth the discipline and effort to understand and validate it. (Woodley and NTT Data have codified some of this research and insight in a white paper that can be found here.)

I’m a pretty intuitive person (well, more like chronically analytical) and one of the first things that struck me about Beth Maerz, when she took over the floor, was that I could immediately tell she is who she is. I admired her demeanor and communication style and was inspired from the moment she began talking. She is an authentic leader and her charge was to provide a solution to Millennials leading the shared economy in less than eight months. Whoa! Travelers is a 100-year-old insurance provider. I leaned forward with eyes peeled for the entire presentation.

Her team’s challenge was to develop something for a new kind of customer that was outside their distribution and they had an unclear value proposition. Oh, the beauty (and anxiety) of being given a broad charge and leaving it up to the team to determine not only the value proposition, but every detail of “the how.”

Beth recognized that this project was going to challenge the way Travelers operates and works together. This was an opportunity for a conglomerate to become a startup, and they did.

Hello, Traverse. In addition to developing the technology, Beth and her team created a new product with new rates and forms, completely different branding and marketing in under eight months. Traverse is an intuitive, 100% digital experience that solves a problem for Millennials and offers a truly differentiated product than what’s available in the market. These early adopter customers expect personalization and want insurers to connect the dots for them, asking fewer questions and allowing them to get the job done in as few steps as possible. These consumers were frustrated that no single product met their needs for protecting some of the items they own and the experiences they want to have in life.

Traverse does exactly that, offering different levels of coverage for small things such as cell phones, with zero-deductible plans that you can cancel anytime. The company believes in the value of offering full transparency of the coverage and how it works. Traverse delivers a highly personalized experience that focuses on what’s important to these tech-savvy, time-limited consumers who want to have fun.

Every charge or bit of information that’s given is multi-dimensional. It’s fluid and beckons you to shift your thinking and create a new and fuller understanding of the business needs and the problem you’re solving. It’s your job to leverage the creativity and talent within your company to the fullest. Don’t just act on the charge. Discover. Explore. Push boundaries and challenge the idea when necessary. It’s during this time that you and your team have the opportunity to create something wonderful.

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